16 Jan Is Automation an employment threat?
There’s always been a fear that circled the notion of change, especially in the realm of technology. When the internet became commercially available in August 6, 1991, there were murmurs of fear mingled with the expectations of a wider, more connected world. But how did this fear come about? And is the world just as wary of change as it was three decades ago?
We pose this question now because the world is facing an industry-wide change with implications similar to that of the internet’s introduction: automation. More specifically, artificial intelligence.
The role of artificial intelligence in the modern age
A quick look at the modern slew of pop culture including films, novels, and TV shows are full of notions of artificial intelligence. It’s everywhere! But more importantly, AI has crossed over to real-world industries and has found significant use and effectivity.
According to Business Insider, the United Kingdom has adopted artificial intelligence in some of their biggest industries. These include the following:
Internet of Things
The state of robotics and artificial intelligence is already at an advanced stage that they can be easily integrated into these industries. Integrations in the manufacturing industry, for example, has proven to be very successful.
Manufacturing automation is when AI is used to automate certain steps in the production process. These include repetitive tasks like car assembly, chemical transplant, and other assembly line procedures. According to this study by Majenta, 14% of manufacturing processes can be replaced by AI in the next few years. Is this something that we need to be worried about?
Statistics on Automation
When the world came around to accepting the fact that automation is here to stay, different industries came to see the benefits that it brought with it. In Mckinsey Global Institute’s Report on Automation in 2017, they indicated the following findings:
- “About half the activities people are paid almost $15 trillion in wages to do in the global economy have the potential to be automated by adapting currently demonstrated technology, according to our analysis of more than 2,000 work activities across 800 occupations”
- In terms of dollars, an Oxford report estimates that implementing automation in the manufacturing industry could increase $4.9 trillion every year by 2030.
- Bot interactions with humans in the banking sector is expected to reach a 90% success rate by 2022.
- 86% of employees surveyed believe that automation will help them do their work more efficiently to improve productivity and growth.
- Estimates that automating different tasks can raise productivity growth to 1.4% annually.
Are there real dangers of job displacement?
So we have come to the crux of the topic: is automation a threat to employees today? Is automation paving the way for an industry-wide change, the severity of which include the loss of jobs like switchboard operators, librarians, and the lowly encyclopedia salesman?
To better understand this fear, we have to look at the statistics first.
As it currently stands, only 60 percent of all industries are capable of automating approximately 30 percent of their processes. This means that no one industry can fully automate, unless they want to risk huge losses at the risk of cost-effectivity. And though robots and other means of artificial intelligence are efficient, they still require a level of maintenance that requires a real live person with the specializations required to handle it.
Then there’s the report from a firm in the UK that said approximately 10 million workers are potentially replaceable by robots in the next decade. Though this number might seem worrying, what it simply means is that a lot of repetitive tasks will soon be automated, it also leaves a lot of room for growth and upskilling for current workers.
Automation is not the first technological wave that has threatened humanity since the beginning of the new millennium; there was the internet, the phone line, and many others. We simply thrived and adapted. Automation shouldn’t be viewed as a threat, but an agent of change.
How we can adapt to the changes of Automation
With the looming specter of automation and artificial intelligence comes an avenue for newer learning. In robotics, for example, there’s a whole line of skillsets that will be required including robotic process automation, data analytics, and multi-layered maintenance. These are skills that will be needed in the upcoming age of AI, and we have the manpower to fill it.
In customer service, automation has proven to be a godsend. Customer service agents have long agonized over the fact that they have to handle repetitive data gathering and case investigations that are at the onset of a customer interaction. Now with chatbots, answerbots, and the lowly IVR (integrated voice response) these steps are mitigated leading to happier agents, and the lowest employee attrition rates in history.
Workers in the manufacturing, sales, and marketing industries also report significant boosts in productivity, efficiency, and overall happiness. With automation taking away the mundane, repetitive portions of their workload they are freed to handle more complex and fulfilling work.
The best approach to Automation
Embracing change and evolution should start from the top. The benefits of change should be appreciated from the higher levels of an organization down to the lowest rung in the corporate ladder. Making sure that everyone understands what is coming and how they benefit from it is a big step towards acceptance.
Automation is a unique step in our human evolution that presents a chance for everyone to benefit: the business saves a lot of money while enhancing efficiencies. Workers are allowed to evolve and become better at their specializations without having to deal with monotonous tasks. It’s a win-win.
The truth is, automation will displace a lot of jobs. But not as much as people fear. Innovation always takes victims, but proper preparation and an adoption of an evolutionary mindset goes a long way. The fourth industrial revolution is here and, like always, we must adapt.
A new exciting chapter is upon us.